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Sour Notes

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Words and art by Jack Sanford 

Full disclosure: I am not musically inclined, and therefore avoided any formal training (unless you count the year of piano lessons my mother paid for and of which I attended about six times). I'm tone deaf, and my pitch more closely resembles a foul ball; even my air guitar is out of tune. The formative years I spent trying to sing along to the Bee Gees music in my mom's record collection might be to blame (although she also had Barry Manilow, Kenny Rogers, and Tom Jones, so I can't use failing at falsettos as an excuse).


That being said, I enjoy listening to a wide variety of music: classic rock to country, heavy metal to Native American chants and drums, grunge to Ariana Grande. There is one general category, however, that sets my ears on edge: church organ and choir music. The high-pitched organ pipes and equally shrill altos make me empathize with the canine crowd when firetruck sirens roll through the neighborhood.


Why the musical disclosure, you might inquire? A few weeks ago, I was asked, in survey form, what the most romantic thing I had done recently. The first answer that came to mind was this: I stayed awake at a church choir performance. It seems, in an act of self-preservation, my body has taken to narcolepsy to escape the aural assaults of church organs and choir music when physical distancing from the source is not an option. As fate would have it, the survey had questions related to public sleep habits as well:

Q. Do you enjoy sleeping in public?

A. Yes, especially when listening to organ/choir music.

Q. Do you enjoy seeing other people sleep in public?

A. No. It means I’m still awake at a choir/organ recital.

Q. What advice would you give for someone who wanted to take up public sleeping as a hobby?

A. Join a church choir.


One might surmise that I am opposed to church music in general: Au contraire, mon frére. My mother also had a sizeable collection of Elvis Presley records, including several of his gospel albums. The King's renditions of "How Great Thou Art," "Amazing Grace," and "You'll Never Walk Alone," are near the top of my favorite-songs-of-all-time list. I'd give up all of my air guitars to be able to sing hymns like the crooner from Memphis (the neighbors' dogs can attest to the fact that I have tried on more than one occasion).


We can't all be musically talented, but we can surround ourselves with the music that speaks to us on level (and sleep through the rest). I love what comedian Robin Williams said about music: "You know what music is? God's little reminder that there's something else besides us in this universe; harmonic connection between all living beings, everywhere, even the stars." So, while some people aspire to hear the choirs in heaven, I think I'll check out the mosh pits on Mars.

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